Monday, October 17, 2011

Cactus (Palm Springs) To Clouds (Mt. San Jacinto) Report

Sunday October 16, 2011: Took my annual trek to Palm Springs to climb the Cactus To Clouds route up to Mt. San Jacinto. I left my house at 0130 for the long drive out to the desert. After a couple of coffee stops, I arrived at the parking lot at 0340. I met up with Ellen who would be accompanying me to the tram this morning. We were on the route at 0400. It was a bit warm at 75 degrees, I would prefer to start off in the low sixties, but oh well. I started out with three liters of water and two liters of powerade. The starting elevation for this trail is 480' and the top of Mt. San Jacinto is at 10,834', lets go.....
Hiking endlessly uphill in the dark is normally a pain, but Ellen and I chatted it up about our respective John Muir Trail journeys this past summer and before too long the sun was coming up and we were at 4,000', good times. The heat of the day never affected me too much, it was warm, but doable. We made good time to Flat Rock where we took a nice siesta. Smoked Salmon and crackers for me. The break helped propel us up the last 2500' to the tram. The weather ended up being great, we must have hiked right along at the comfortable/uncomfortable line with the heat.
After stopping for lunch at the Ranger Station, Ellen bid me farewell and I continued on to the summit. It was a very enjoyable trek, so enjoyable that I decided to bag Miller Peak. I arrived at the summit to a hoard of people, I almost forgot it was a weekend. Had to wait in line to get a photo of the summit sign. The views were incredible as usual. Looking down the north face to the desert floor is awesome, the geologic forces at work are still ongoing and very evident. On the way down I took the ridge down to the first big switchback in the trail. I call this the snowshoe route :). I made it down to the tram in good time. I finished at 3:00 pm with a total of 21.5 Miles and 10,850' of elevation gain and two summits. Not a bad autumn day in the mountains.

My Topo Profile Of The Upper Mountain

My Topo Profile Of The Lower Route

From Summitpost: View Of The Route

From Summipost: Another View Of The Route

First Light


Early Morning Light On San Gorgonio

The Route That Lies Ahead

Looking Down To The Desert Floor

Good Times :)

View North From The Summit

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mt. Brewer via the East Ridge

Tuesday September 27th, 2011: Woke up, got packed up and left my house in Simi Valley at 0200. I planned on a six hour drive to Roads End in Kings Canyon. The drive up the 99 is boring in the daylight, it is even worse at this hour. Just me and the big rigs. I arrived at Roads End at 0730 and did the last minute packing of the backpack and was off at 0815. Roads End is at 5,035' and my destination at East Lake is at 9,445', so alot of climbing to do in the next 13.5 miles. I had planned on being out in the wilderness until Saturday, but the weather was not in my favor after Thursday. Possible thunderstorms and snow Friday and Saturday. So, I set out with Mt. Brewer as the goal and would see what the weather looked like after that.
It was a sluggish climb at best. Not much sleep and the long drive weren't equally a strong result this day. I pressed on and on it seemed, but made it to East Lake in six hours. The lake is nestled in a bowl of grand peaks. Mt. Brewer and North Guard to the west, West Vidette to the east, Mt. Jordan to the south and Mt. Bago in the distant north. It is a really beautiful setting and I had it all to myself. I wouldn't see anyone this entire trip actually. I set-up camp and scouted out my route for tomorrow morning. The sun sets early with the massive peaks to the west and it gets chilly in a hurry. I had some dinner and hit the sack at 1830. I knocked out quick, it had been an exhausting day.
Climbing Up The Bubbs Creek Drainage

South Face Of Mt. Bago

East Lake

East Lake
Wednesday September 28th, 2011: After a so so night of rest, I was up and at em at 0530. Had some oatmeal, packed up and set off for Mt. Brewer at 0630. I didn't want to start in the dark on a route I am unfamiliar with so I took my time packing up. The first obstacle of the day was to cross the outlet of East Lake. There are a bunch of downed trees that provide a dry crossing, just have to keep your balance for a hundred foot stretch. I skirted the western shore of the lake passing one creek and another. The second creek is Ouzel Creek and this is where I would head west towards Brewer. I got good intel off the web from Summitpost and Bob Burd's websites as to where to follow the creek and where to climb above it. Following these instructions I was able to follow the north side of Ouzel Creek then take the north branch of the creek and follow that upstream to the toe of the east ridge. Instead of climbing onto the ridge, I stayed to the north of the immediate ridge and climbed up slabs and talus until the north side became too steep. I was able to keep to the class two route for the most part but went too far on the north side and had to attain the east ridge via some class three climbing. I could have backtracked to the class two route, but found this section not too bad. Once on the ridge I could make out the rest of the route except where the east ridge and south ridge meet. This sure didn't look class two, but I proceeded with the hopes that the proper route would reveal itself in due time.
My instructions were to follow the east ridge until it met up with the south ridge. Here there would be a notch and I would be able to climb the south ridge/slopes to the summit. Thankfully, this was indeed the case. I did have to make a few class three moves to get through the notch onto the south ridge, but nothing too bad. Once on the south ridge I had to pick my way through the talus to the summit blocks. I could now see three distinct pinnacles with the middle one appearing to be the highest and most difficult. Summitpost listed it as a class three/four block. Thank goodness for rock shoes. The summit register was supposed to be near the northeastern pinnacle but I had no luck finding it. I started to doubt which of the three pinnacles was the highest and which one had the register, so I climbed all three and spent a good hour looking around each for the register. No luck, where could it be? I have read about register theft in the Sierra's, could this be the case here? I was able to get a whole bunch of class three and one class four scrambling in which was quite enjoyable with the outstanding weather and magnificent views.
I was truly blessed with the great weather. There were some clouds in the sky, but nothing threatening. The views were spectacular. I could see the Palisades, Mt. Goddard, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Williamson, Mt. Tyndall, Mt. Stanford, West Vidette, North Guard, Glen Pass and beyond. I spent a good amount of time soaking this all in. I had a good time using the map and compass to identify far off peaks. As a photographer, this was great. I knew this trip would be the last backpacking excursion into the Sierra Nevada for the season and what a season it had been. It was here I decided that I would end the season on a high note and make the summit of Mt. Brewer the finale. I would be coming home tomorrow. As an added benefit, I would be staying ahead of the weather. I had my lunch, sent off a Spot Connect message to my wife, did a video and started back to East Lake. The climb back down wasn't too bad at all. I took my time and enjoyed the journey. Today was a great day in the Sierra Nevada.

The Climbing Begins

Mt. Brewer
Self Portrait With A Great Backdrop
Mt. Goddard To The Left, The Palisades To The Right
East Ridge Meeting The South Ridge

The Notch Connecting The Ridges

Summit Straight Ahead

Mt. Whitney In The Distance, To The Right

East Lake Way Down There

Summit Pinnacle, Class Three/Four Block

Thursday September 29th, 2011: Woke up this morning feeling great, a good night of rest does wonders for the body and mind. Before packing up and heading back to Roads End, I wandered up stream/canyon to Lake Reflection. I read that is a beautiful lake and it lived up to its billing. I spent some time there taking photographs and enjoying the grand scene. The rest of the day was uneventful, just a long trek back to the car. As the day progressed I could see the puffy cumulus clouds building over the crest, the weather was definitely changing. I made it back to my truck at 2:30 pm and I concluded a great season, very thankful and grateful.

Alpine Glow

Lake Reflection
Last Look At Mt. Brewer

All The Photos Can Be Viewed Here: